Swedish politicians, journalists and lobbyists have gathered on the Baltic island of Gotland to partake in Almedalsveckan, the annual “political” week in Sweden.
Doors are thrown wide on Sunday, and the political fest is expected to be bigger than ever before.
“Everyone will be there, from party politicians to big organisations. So it’s unavoidable for us to go there too,” Urban Bäckström, CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), told news agency TT.
Once again, Almedalsveckan has blown all previous size records out of the water.
On Thursday, 1449 events were listed on the schedule, close to 650 journalists were registered to attend, and as far as topics go, climate and environment were top of the pops, ahead of healthcare and enterprise.
And this orgy certainly doesn’t come cheap. This year’s week in Almedalen is set to cost Swedish authorities roughly 5.2 million kronor ($829,000), reported the newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Sunday.
“The question is if participating in Almedalen is just a way to get a pleasant paid vacation, or if it really fits within the agency’s mission,” political scientist Peter Esaiasson said to the paper.
Out of the 38 authorities present, the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) is investing the most with their 900,000 kronor. 740,000 kronor makes the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) runner-up.
This year Almedalsveckan runs from July 3rd to July 10th. An extra day has been added to the traditional seven, to make room for the Riksdag’s newest party, the Sweden Democrats.
The seed to the Almedalen week was planted in 1968, when prime minister and Social Democratic leader Olof Palme stood on the back of a truck and spoke, under the elm trees in Visby’s park.
Few could have expected this to grow to the size it has, but whether it is a positive development or a negative one is a matter of debate.
Critics opine that Almedalsveckan is a waste of money, resulting in very few serious political suggestions.
But Stig-Björn Ljunggren, political scientist and social democratic debater, says that critics have misinterpreted the week’s purpose.
“It’s extremely relevant. It’s a industry meeting for those in the art of bringing out a message.”
No one could be happier about this than Visby’s many restaurateurs, who will be selling canapés, sandwiches, salads and dinners in enormous quantities.
Not to mention the amount of emptied glasses with varying contents.